Spread out along a particularly scenic stretch of coastline is Southern California's artsiest resort town, Laguna Niguel and Laguna Beach. It has been a popular tourist town since the early 1900s, thanks to seven flawless miles of golden crescent beaches, caressed with a perfect climate in the stunning coastal foothills.
The privileged spot has famously attracted bohemian types since the 1920s, and remains best known for its major arts festival, Pageant of the Masters. Since 1932, locals have used elaborate costumes and settings to "recreate" the world's most famous paintings, remaining perfectly still for 90 minutes while a soaring orchestra plays. Other arts fairs, including the Sawdust Art Festival and Art-a-Fair (also held in July and August, to coincide with the Pageant of the Masters), Plein Air Painting Invitational, Festival of Arts, and other art shows draw crowds. Can't make it? Scores of art galleries, fascinating shops, wineries, and even a couple of art museums should keep you inspired.
While the beaches right in town can get crowded, consider climbing to 1000 Steps Beach for a less hectic experience. Nearby protected areas such as Tabletop Beach and Crystal Cove State Park, with diving and mountain-bike trails, are also good bets.
There are scores of hotels, B&Bs, and vacation rentals, all of which fill up for big events, such as the Pageant of the Masters. It's worth making reservations well in advance on sunny summer weekends.